Being a member of the Cabinet has prompted presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo to “defend” President Rodrigo Duterte on the PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement “right or wrong,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Thursday.
Lacson said it is a no-brainer to understand where Panelo, who he considers a “friend from way back,” is coming from.
“It is a no-brainer that my friend from way back, Salvador Panelo, being a member of the President’s Cabinet, will defend him, right or wrong. Hence, I’m willing to give him enough leeway,” he said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Panelo questioned Lacson’s comments on the claims made by Duterte on the PH-US VFA issue. The issue started last week, when Duterte said the US will “have to pay” if it wants the VFA done. Lacson noted it would have been better to have a diplomatic approach.
In his Monday night address, Duterte said that under the Constitution, foreign policy is vested in the President alone. On Tuesday, Lacson replied the 1987 Constitution – Art. VII, Sec. 21 – gives senators a say on international agreements.
This prompted Panelo to issue a statement Wednesday, where he maintained the President has exclusive power to conduct and manage the country’s interface with other states.
On the other hand, Lacson, in his statement Thursday, maintained Art. VII, Sec. 21 of the 1987 Constitution is clear and unequivocal on the participation of each and every senator in voting for or against the ratification of a treaty or international agreement, which the PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement is.
“In fact, official records of the Senate will tell us that the vote on May 27, 1999 was 18-5, without which the same would not have been valid and effective,” he said.
More importantly, he said it is wrong to assert that a senator and even an ordinary citizen cannot express an opinion on something concerning the national interest.
“More importantly: Whether or not an international agreement or a treaty has already been made valid and effective, it is still wrong to assert that a sitting senator and even an ordinary citizen of this country has no more freedom to express his opinion with something that concerns our national interest,” he said.